RALEIGH — A new state law that eliminates a requirement local governments get three bids before signing a contract for large dredging projects without first readvertising for new bids got a big thumbs-up Monday from Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph.
In an interview, Mr. Rudolph, whose office oversees dredging and beach nourishment projects for the county, said the law should “save time, and money for taxpayers.”
House Bill 735, which passed the state Senate and House of Representatives unanimously, was signed into law Thursday, July 22 by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Previously, three bids were required for any construction or repair work of any type estimated to cost $500,000 or more.
The primary sponsor of the bill to amend that language was state Rep. Charles Miller, a Republican from coastal Brunswick County. Republican Rep. Pat McElraft of Emerald Isle was among the cosponsors, and there were also Democratic Party co-sponsors.
The legislation simply exempts dredging projects in the state estimated to cost more than $500,000 from the requirement.
Mr. Rudolph said the county routinely gets only one or two bids for major beach nourishment projects – which require dredging of sand from offshore – and when that happens, the county has to readvertise for bids for seven days. If only one or two bidders re-bid, the county can then award a contract. However, with nourishment and dredging projects confined to a narrow period because of environmental laws designed to protect sea turtles and other wildlife, the need to readvertise has sometimes pushed project completion dates up against and even past state or federal deadlines. The county has occasionally had to get an extension.
“Time is one thing that that will benefit us now,” Mr. Rudolph said. “A week can be crucial.”
The largest gain, however is on cost. Particularly on major nourishment projects – which cost tens of millions of dollars – there are only two or three contractors in the country capable of doing the work, and they are all very busy, sometimes with equipment working far away when the time for a project is specified. Mr. Rudolph said some find it difficult if not impossible to bid for the work.
The county’s past few Bogue Banks beach nourishment projects have been done by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. of Illinois.
“Say you’re a contractor, Great Lakes, and in the first round of bidding for a project, you’re the only bidder, so we have to say, ‘Sorry, we have to readvertise,’” Mr. Rudolph said. “That one bidder knows that he is likely to be the only bidder again, so he knows he can increase his bid, his profit margin … and will still get the job.”
The money is not as big a factor in smaller, town-specific projects, such as the dredging this year of Old Ferry Channel. But that contract well exceeded $500,000 requirement for three bidders.
Sometimes, Mr. Rudolph said, on the local projects the county will ask local contractors to submit “courtesy bids,” even if they are going to be ridiculously out of line, just so there will be three bids and the project can get contracted. But those local contractors are also busy with small projects for private property owners, so that usually doesn’t happen, Mr. Rudolph said.
The bottom line, he said, is the new law, which the county supported along with bipartisan legislators from across the state, is a big win for all involved.
“So yeah, hooray,” he said. “Of course it comes after three years of major beach nourishment projects here, but it’s still great.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email [email protected]; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.